On 16th August 2019, my beautiful darling wife Lorraine passed away in the Good Samaritan hospital, Los Angeles. Two weeks prior we celebrated 35 years of marriage. She was diagnosed with Brca-2 ovarian cancer 3 years earlier and had been fighting for her life ever since. We have two kids, Jack and India, they are both grown up now and have their own lives going on. Like mine those lives will never be the same again. The rest of my life has been stolen from me and it’s not fair. I was supposed to spend it with her, get old and rickety together, not like this, this is fucking shite.
Lorraine was a fighter, in every sense of the word. Her positive energy throughout the whole ordeal was inspiring, it inspired me to not allow myself to think about the bad thing happening, whenever the idea of her dying popped into my mind I expelled it immediately, threw it out into the night. Fuck that, she wasn’t going anywhere, we were going to win this battle come what may. We just had to stay positive and fight side by side.
For three years that was the modus operandi for us and all our friends and family. It wasn’t easy but we took our strength from her and from our love for her. She was the most remarkable woman I ever met, she was formidable and beautiful, even as she died in my arms she was so gorgeous. I miss her so much and I can only imagine that my future is now empty and bleak.
Often the most difficult time is when I first wake up in the morning, it’s horrible. I just lay there and can’t stop thinking about her and re-living the end, over and over. She gave me a look that will stay with me forever, she knew what was happening and she had seconds to go, she stared into my eyes, fear, wonder, sadness, perhaps even a little relief, she said everything to me with those eyes of hers in a second and she was gone. That’s the look I wake up to every day, her beautiful face saying goodbye.
One of her many qualities was her great sense of humour, along with drinking, eating and enjoying good company she had the most infectious laugh that could be heard far and wide. When I flew back to London from L.A. I had a very large suitcase and a hessian bag with a bamboo urn containing her ashes. Lorraine’s brother Kevin met me at Gatwick airport and as we were in the elevator going down to the car park there was a chatty American guy next to us who, pointing at the suitcase, said “What have you got in there, a dead body?”
I held up the urn and replied “No, she’s in here”.
The look on the guy’s face was priceless and we laughed all the way up the M11. We were both convinced that Lorraine had set the whole thing up and was up there laughing, sitting at the bar with David Bowie and Marc Bolan, taking the piss out of me. I hope so anyway, otherwise it’s a bit creepy.
In October I went to Italy for a week as the guest of Lorraine’s brother Kevin and his wife Louise. They have a villa in Puglia that is beyond beautiful. It’s kind of a bittersweet thing as Lorraine wanted to come here very much but every time we tried her health held us back and we had to keep putting it off. One night we went to a local restaurant that is a classic family run osteria, the food and wine were superb and we had a splendid time. I broke down at one point as I couldn’t stop thinking about how much Lorraine would’ve enjoyed it. I think that’s going to be the hardest thing to deal with as time goes on, every time I go somewhere or see something that she would enjoy it’s going to cut me up into pieces but perhaps it will also help me deal with the loss, at least I hope it will, time will tell.
It’s very relaxing, just sitting around in the sunshine and drinking, eating, walking around the gorgeous little towns. I had my own balcony so I could sit out there at night with a smoke and drink the local ‘Primitivo’ till the wee hours and ponder life’s mysteries…it wasn’t easy to leave and fly back to rainy old Norfolk, I can tell you that much.
Working helps but there’s always a kind of undercurrent that makes everything feel different from before, like being at work is almost protecting me from my emotions, like wearing a jacket in the rain, but at the end of the day, I take the jacket off and get into my car to drive home and I want to call her and tell her about my day, like I always have, then I have to stop somewhere and have an emotional outburst before carrying on the journey.
Obviously, nothing will ever be the same from now on. I was talking to a friend recently about suicide and how if it wasn’t for the kids being here I think I’d be seriously considering it as a way out. It has been on my mind since the day she died. Partly because I don’t care about anything anymore. I do care really, just not very much. If I did take the easy way out, compared to the route that was forced upon her, all the horror that she went through for three years and then I just jump off a bridge or something because I feel sad? I’d be listening to her take on that for the rest of eternity, at least. So, I think I’ll skip the suicide option, for now anyway.
We had our ups and downs, like everyone, but we had a love for each other that mostly transcended all the crap that life threw at us. Life was never easy, I was never able to give her the life she really wanted although aside from all the money woes and the seemingly constant kicks in the teeth from all sides we had a wonderful time together, we did things and went to places that neither of us would have experienced if we hadn’t met that night in a quiet Suffolk pub.
In January 2020, Lorraine’s brother Nick died at his home in Bury St Edmunds, also cancer, also BRCA 2 gene. I think Nick knew he had it long before he was diagnosed, he just didn’t want to go through the hell that Lorraine endured, I don’t blame him to be honest. Poor Joyce lost two of her kids in less than 6 months.
The day of Nick’s funeral an old friend who lived quite close by hanged himself in his garden shed at 4:30 in the afternoon. I couldn’t believe it. There was a bit of drinking going on that night, my whole world seemed to be falling apart at the seams.
I’m back in the UK now and I’ve moved into a tiny little cottage in Norfolk, off the beaten track, very quiet, remote and lonely. It’s beautiful countryside and my favourite pub is about 2 miles away, down the kind of country lane that has grass growing down the middle. It feels like I’m 50 miles from anywhere but the market town of Diss is a 5 minute drive or a 20 minute walk away.
Just as I was settling into the new house, I started making calls and sending emails in a vague attempt to try and salvage what’s left of my career and get back to work, there was a report on the news about a virus in China that ‘left nothing but a Panama hat and a pair of old Greek shoes’ as the old Dylan song goes. Most governments around the world, including ours, decided to do nothing, thinking it would go away.
The UK has been on lockdown for weeks now and it is very, very strange. The whole planet has had to work together to get people tested and treated. Apart from a few islands dotted around the world pretty much every country has reported cases. The exponential curve is incredible. There has never been anything like this, ever. The word normal is going to have to mean something else from now on, normal as we know it is never coming back.
I’m concerned about Jack & India, both still in L.A. The restaurant where they both worked has closed its doors and has told all the staff they will not be reopening. Hundreds and thousands of small businesses will go under, if they haven’t already. Terrifying. The USA, led by the orange moron, will be the hardest hit I think, as they are still in denial about what’s happening and the White House is turning it into political spin. They are desperately unprepared for what’s coming.
I didn’t think I could feel any lonelier than I was until the Covid-19 virus came along. I’ve been in self-isolation now for 8 weeks and haven’t really seen anyone. Being isolated really doesn’t particularly help with the self-pity but it does give me plenty of time to think about what I’m going to do with what’s left of my future.
It’s in the wee hours that the loneliness and sorrow seem to become more intense, like a toothache or something. I try to read or watch movies but it’s almost impossible to concentrate or think about anything else.
The effect of all this isolation is interesting. At first I kind of welcomed it, I’ve never had a problem with being on my own before, but I’ve never been on my own for so long, up until now it’s been a few days here, a couple of weeks there, not two months. I always enjoyed the ‘freedom’ of my own company, no-one to answer to, no buttons to push. The fact that it wasn’t just me whose life had fallen to pieces, but the whole world, that was great, I wasn’t alone.
That particular novelty didn’t take long to wear off, now it’s just bloody annoying. It has been 2 months since I’ve had any physical contact of any kind, not a handshake, not a hug or a kiss. I don’t think many of us realised just how important it is to have human connections. I’m completely alone in my little cottage, I rarely see anyone and if I do they are at least 2 meters away. The loneliness factor has now increased considerably and I fear it’s becoming a big problem. Some days I can’t be fucked to get off the sofa and it’s only the disapproving looks from Ollie the dog that stop me hitting the bottle for breakfast. It’s days like this when the thoughts of suicide come back. It’s not something I’d ever do, purely because of the kids, although I can’t help but toy with the idea from time to time.
I don’t want to kill myself, of course I don’t, I don’t want to be drunk and miserable and sad all the time either. I want to have a life, I’ve probably got a few years to go yet, am I supposed to spend that time crying all day? It feels like that’s how it’s going to be but of course it isn’t, the light at the end of the tunnel seems so far away but life will continue to improve, in the fullness of time.
Whenever I meet friends or family or anybody I can hear the pity in their voices, see it in their eyes, I’m getting pretty sick of that. It’s not their fault of course, they’re being sweet and sensitive, it’s just another annoying factor. Pity is a strange emotion. To take pity on someone is a kind and gentle thing to do and yet to be pitied is horrible and depressing and reminds you of how fucked up everything is. It sucks.
So, I’m soldiering on, the virus is too. The politicos are, needless to say, more concerned about their own personal wealth than the health and welfare of the general population so no surprises there. Some days are better than others, I don’t wake up crying every morning so that’s good. I still cry quite a lot but usually in short bursts these days. I am slowly getting through the grief, of course I will never get over losing Lorraine to such a terrible disease but someday hope to salvage something from the wreckage and be able to start over again.
There are still many things I want to do, places to visit, people to meet, a second life to live. Who knows if I’ll get to do any of those things or what opportunities may come my way, if any, but I’m willing to give it a try, I have to, she’s counting on me.